WW1 hero's grandchildren found after appeal

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image copyrightSouth Ayrshire Council
image captionJanet Shankland-Huggins travelled from Canada to take part in a special commemoration of her late grandfather Robert Shankland VC

The Canadian granddaughter of a World War One hero has travelled to Ayrshire for a special commemoration after an international appeal for relatives.

Robert Shankland, who was born in Ayr, was awarded a Victoria Cross for the courage he showed on 26 October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.

South Ayrshire Council had appealed for help in tracing family members after initial inquiries proved fruitless.

Janet Shankland-Huggins contacted the council after seeing an online article.

The 51-year-old, from Greater Vancouver in British Columbia, said she fielded phone calls from around the world after the BBC Scotland news story appeared on 6 October.

She said it had been very exciting and she felt humbled to be able to take part.

Due to time restraints for travel documents and other commitments, her brother Mark Cameron Shankland and sister Barbara Anna Flower were unable to attend.

image copyrightSouth Ayrshire Council
image captionRozelle Remembrance Woodland has been designed to keep the legacies alive of service personnel

The unveiling of a paving stone, in Ayr's Rozelle Park, is part of national programme to mark the 628 Victoria Crosses awarded during World War One.

Robert Shankland emigrated to Canada when he was 24, and he became a sergeant major in the 43rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

He was awarded the VC by King George V in person following his acts of valour at Passchendaele.

Mr Shankland braved enemy fire and advanced into German lines to take vital new information back, which ultimately helped in the battle.

He had already won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery as a sergeant at the Battle of the Somme the previous year.

'Doted on us'

Speaking at the ceremony, Ms Shankland-Huggins said the family "has always been and will always be very proud" of his achievements.

She said: "Robert Shankland is a Canadian and a Scottish war hero and it is quite an honour for his home town to share and remember him with the laying of this commemorative stone.

"But the Lieutenant Colonel Robert Shankland is not the man I remember. My memories are that of a slightly chubby, white-haired man who always wore a bow tie and had a faint scent of pipe tobacco.

"He used to visit us for family dinners where he doted on us while we sat on his lap."

She added: "Years after his passing, when my brother, sister and I were a little older, Robert's son, my father David, and Uncle William would tell us about our grandfather's history, his town of Ayr, and his medals and the stories about him.

"This is when we learned to understand the importance of what he achieved in World War One.

"Being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the Battle of the Somme and the Victoria Cross in the Battle of Passchendaele. We of course could not be any prouder."

image copyrightSouth Ayrshire Council
image captionRobert Shankland lived in the single-storey property on the left of this photo of Gordon Terrace, Ayr

Robert was born on 10 October 1887 at 6 Gordon terrace, Ayr. He went to Smith's Institution in Holmston Road (now Holmston Primary School) and ended his school life as dux.

He worked in a variety of jobs in Ayr before emigrating to Canada in 1911 with his friend George Ritchie.

Mr Shankland returned to Ayr many times. He volunteered for World War Two but was not sent into action due to his age, becoming a camp commandant for Canadian forces in London.

Ms Shankland-Huggins said he settled back into civilian life with wife Anna, "his Prestwick Lass", and took part in many dinners and events within the Scottish community in Vancouver.

He died in 1968 aged 81.

image copyrightSouth Ayrshire Council
image captionPeople travelled from across the UK to remember Robert Shankland

South Ayrshire Provost, Helen Moonie said the poignant service was a timely reminder of what people went through in World War One to help protect future generations.

She said: "We didn't think that we'd be able to track down any of the Shankland family but we were overwhelmed by the response and deeply moved that his granddaughter, Janet, flew from Canada to take part.

"South Ayrshire Council's motto is 'ne'er forget the people' and the Rozelle Remembrance Woodland has been designed to keep our service personnel, their families, their memories and their legacies alive every day for generations to come."

Mr Shankland's second cousin Maureen Hall still lives in Scotland and was among seven descendants to attend the ceremony.

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